It’s probably no surprise to you that I have an ingredient problem. So many things are just $3–$5 for the smaller size, and then the descriptions and reviews sound so promising… and before I know it I’ve justified a cart full of mysterious powders, oils, and miscellany. Unfortunately, not all of my little investigative gambles have paid off. Some have been full on regrets, and some have been the sort of thing where it’s only useful for a select few things. So, here’s my list of things I don’t think are worth buying, or should at least think twice about. Hopefully I can save you a few dollars and a few regrets.
Every colour of mica & oxide
If you just take a moment to brush up on your colour theory, you can get by with just the primary colours (red, yellow, and blue… plus brown, black and white [titanium dioxide]) for most things by blending (yellow + red = orange, etc.). Same with micas—get silver and maybe gold or copper, and then shift the colour with oxides.
Most fruit & botanical extracts
I’m not talking about herbs, here—I’m talking about dropping $10 on mysterious strawberry dust or $17 on seabuckthorn powder. If you can get it as a carrier oil or essential oil, do. If you can buy it as a non-powdered herb, do—it makes much easier to strain herbal oils. Look at the vitamins they’re bragging about—don’t you already have a carrier oil high in those vitamins?
Mostly, just be careful. You can spend a lot of money on these powders, and end up with $200 of baggies of powder that aren’t as amazing as you had hoped. Make sure you have a few ideas or recipes before you buy it, and always read the reviews.
Many things in your kitchen will add an exfoliating kick to your products without needing to go out and splurge on fancy jojoba beads or luffa bits. Some of my favourite exfoliants are baking soda (USA / Canada), lightly ground grains (oats, rice, barley, etc.), coarser clays, salt, and sugar.
The majority of essential oils that are being discontinued
I have never bought an essential oil that’s on the “to be discontinued & hence marked down” list and immediately thought “I can’t believe this is being discontinued.” They are usually sort of weird and not all that enjoyable or memorable. They almost always end up playing a small part in a soap blend or two just so I can use them up.
Fancy-pants expensive salts
I bought Dead Sea salts. I used up my Dead Sea salts. I still couldn’t tell you anything about Dead Sea salts except that they are a lot more expensive than normal salt. I suspect most expensive salts are in the same category, and will not be investing the money to find out. If you want pink salt, use a bit of beetroot powder (or some other pink/red plant powder) to make Epsom salts pink.
Dead Sea mud
The tub of Dead Sea mud I have in my cupboard (and have had for at least two years now, barely touched) will be the last time I pay for mud. I prefer clay masks. If you have had fantastic experiences with Dead Sea mud, or have a project planned out that will make use of it, great (it does make lovely soap, and I’ve heard good things about body scrubs, though I imagine they’d be very messy)—but I haven’t been overly impressed with it.
While I can understand that there are some uses for unscented cocoa butter (USA / Canada), unrefined shea butter (USA / Canada), and coconut oil, buying bleached beeswax is extra awful because it’s usually from China, and you have actually options when it comes to beeswax. Why buy heavily processed, bleached pellets of Chinese beeswax when you can buy a beautiful local block from your nearest farmer’s market?
By “fake” I mean things like “aloe butter” and “lime blend butter” that masquerade as actual butters. What on earth are those things? Lab-based wizardry, more often than not.
Pre-Steeped Herbal Oils
These are a major price gouge. 500mL of arnica steeped olive oil (pomace) (USA / Canada) is over $40. 500mL of olive oil (pomace) (USA / Canada) might cost you $6, and 75g of arnica flowers is about $4. Put them in a jar together, wait three weeks, and save $30. Sure, you won’t know the exact strength, but for $30 I am ok with that.
3% Essential Oil Dilutions
Unless you really could never afford the essential oil itself (rose, you pricey minx…), the 3% dilutions are rip-offs—a 15mL bottle of a 3% dilution doesn’t even contain half a milliliter of the essential oil. For example, German Chamomile essential oil is $80.84/15mL, while the 3% dilution is $5.78. If you do the math on the price per milliliter of the actual essential oil, the pure is $5.39/mL, but the diluted is $12.84/mL—more than twice the price. Now, I’m not suggesting you drop $80 on a bottle of essential oil, but I am recommending that you take a look at the price of the 5mL bottle and see if it’s do-able. And, if you do buy the 3% dilution, don’t put it in soap and waste it—the scent won’t make it.
All the plant-derived, water-soluble red colourants you can find
I already did the experiments on these in my quest for lip stain, so if your idea is to make lip stain, please don’t buy all the plant-derived, water-soluble red colourants you can find. I did, and I’ve had a hard time finding uses for them after determining they make crap reddish lip water.
Things you shouldn’t buy if you don’t soap
- Seaweed powder—I find this to be too irritating to use on my face in high concentrations, and in smaller concentrations it takes ages to work through even the smallest tub of it. It is really fun to use in soap, though.
- Bleached coconut oil—it’s cheap & great for soaping, but go with the virgin stuff if you don’t need it in soap style quantities
Food Grade Oils
They are way more expensive than cosmetic grade, and are sometimes processed differently (argan oil, for example, is roasted when it’s prepared for food, so it’s not as effective on the skin & far more fragrant). The only exceptions are very cheap olive oil (pomace) (USA / Canada) and lard/tallow.
So, what about you? What ingredients will you never buy, or never buy again?